One of the Minnesota Twins‘ primary concerns this Spring Training is finding an everyday center fielder and ideally a leadoff hitter. When camp opened, it was a wide open race between Darin Mastroianni, Joe Benson and Aaron Hicks. As of now, it appears that Hicks is currently leading that race.
In MLB Spring Training, spots are not necessarily won or lost according to statistics. But having a statistically strong campaign certainly can help. Benson, the ultra-talented righty who has a reputation of being a hot head, isn’t off to a great start. He’s 3-20 in seven exhibition games. He missed the end of last year with a knee surgery and this is his first bit of action since then.
Mastrioanni was the only one of the three to see extended playing time at the Major League level. He had a decent first year with the Twins, hitting .252 and stealing 21 bases in 24 attempts. Thus far in Spring Training, he is hitting .364 in minimal action. He is close to a lock to make the Twins’ Opening Day roster because he plays good D and is fast–two things manager Ron Gardenhire loves in his bench players.
Hicks led off the game on Monday with a solo shot to right field. He is hitting .313 in Spring Training and has gained a reputation for being a patient disciplined hitter. His plus arm originally earned him interest as a pitcher before the Twins drafted him as an outfielder. Good speed, the ability to draw walks and his ability to switch hit makes him a legitimate candidate to be a leadoff hitter. But he has yet to play a game of triple A ball and has had trouble adjusting when he does jump up a level, so having him skip triple A altogether may be a bit ambitious.
While this race is far from over, Hicks holds the edge because the Twins want him to be their everyday starting center fielder. They used the 14th overall pick in 2008 to draft him with the assumption he would be their center fielder of the future. If he can show that he can be competent against big league competition, he will likely earn the starting job as the Twins enter a season that is more about development than competitiveness. If Hicks can stay steady throughout Spring Training, expect him to fly north with the big league squad come Opening Day.